By: Elizabeth McDonald
Leaving is never easy. Exactly 110 days ago, I boarded a plane headed for Denver, CO, ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, not quite knowing what the future held for me. I jumped into this journey departing from a life I knew so well and I knew it would be difficult. However, what I did not anticipate was that no matter how hard an experience might be, departing is always tough. Even on the hardest days of NOLS (i.e. Whiskey Mountain, Goat Flat and Ross Lake), the memory of sleeping outside, cuddled together under the stars outweighs all of the uphill (literally) battles. Saying goodbye to our trusty instructors Andy, Brandon and Christina was comparable to leaving relatives after a holiday. Living out of a van for four weeks meant we were constantly moving, leaving each new place a slightly different person. Leaving the Pine Ridge was sad because there was an electric amount of passion pulsing through the culture there. The Gap Plague 2015 hit us hard in St. Louis and while it was a difficult transition week for many, I still long for peacefulness I felt after an arduous day of working in the sun. The hard, full days of cleaning out the old Itmann Company Store in Mullens, West Virginia with Ruby are some of the best memories of this entire experience. The ability to interact with the homeless population I learned while in Washington, DC is a skill I will treasure for the rest of my life. Giving everyone hugs at the airport was bittersweet because I knew at the other end of my flight was my family but I was leaving my new family and the daily life of debriefs and dinner together. Leaving my parents at the airport after fall break was only slightly easier than August but I knew Costa Rica awaited me, with open arms. Now, what can I say? It’s all over. I’m leaving Costa Rica, a changed person. Not only does the challenge of readjusting to American culture loom on the other side but also dealing with the absence of my host family, walking to school every day, gallo pinto for breakfast and extravagant weekend trips. I’m sad to leave this country that has given me so much also for the fact that it represents the final leg of this gap semester experience with the people who have become my family. I cannot explain, in proper words, what this group means to me. I know our paths at Elon may pull us in different directions. I know that the dynamic that our group has now will never be the same. As this journey comes to an end, I am reminded of a quote by Winnie the Pooh that says, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”. I took a leap of faith with fourteen other people who shared a common appetite for adventure as myself. I am appreciative of everyone and everything that has made this experience the journey of a lifetime. How lucky I am that leaving is never easy.